This article is part of the How to Pray series.
Sexual Temptation Abounds
Evil has abounded in every age; yet today’s children face unique danger. Sex is assumed in most dating relationships. Pornography is as accessible as checking the weather. Phone apps provide opportunities for anonymous hookups.
As a parent of six children, I bear the responsibility to guard and guide them through this treacherous landscape of sexual temptation. I also know that ultimately only the Lord can provide the help they need (Ps. 127:1). This is why parents like me must pray for their teenager’s sexual purity.
What follows are six prayers from Scripture’s mine of wisdom that parents can pray for their teenagers.
1. Pray they would desire God.
Pray that God would help them treasure him above all else.
Desiring God is a gift that only he can give; plead for God to give it. We do this knowing that one of Satan’s greatest tools is distraction—which abound in our age. If we are not careful, screens, texts, games, movies, friends, and social media fill every waking moment of our children’s lives. Desire for God can quickly be quenched and replaced with lesser loves.
There is a war for our children’s affections, and we must plead with God to intervene. First, we must pray that our children come to know Jesus. Pray they would cherish his saving mercy. Secondly, pray with the Apostle Paul that our children would continue cherishing him and “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus . . . and count them as rubbish, in order that [they] may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
Jesus assured us, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Pray for your children to pursue purity, not as an end in itself, but as a means of seeing God. Pray also for yourself to have wisdom in helping your children discipline themselves and prioritize seeking God above all else (1 Tim. 4:7–8).
2. Pray they would understand sexuality.
Pray that God would help your child’s view of sex to be shaped by Scripture, not the world.
Several years ago my family and I walked through a carnival’s house of mirrors. The walls were lined with mirrors designed to twist our reflection and present a distorted image. Some stretched us to look tall and thin; others rendered us short and tubby. Everywhere we walked, things looked right in some ways and strange in other ways.
Our fallen world is a house of mirrors that distorts everything, including sexuality. According to the world, sex is whatever you want it to be, because, well, it’s all about you. But this perversion of God’s purpose has devastating effects. Along with that, the world assures them that their identity is wrapped up in their feelings and sexual fulfillment. This breeds confusion with disastrous consequences. Pray they would see their identity in Christ as their greatest treasure.
God wisely and wonderfully created sex, gender, and sexuality. He hardwired us with the capacity for attraction, arousal, and satisfaction. Our children need to understand that sex is not meaningless or evil but that in marriage it is a gift that he gives for our pleasure and his glory (Heb.13:4; cf. Gen.1:28, 2:24). Navigating the confusing world of sexuality can be disorienting for our children, so pray that God’s word would shape their minds (Rom. 12:1–2).
3. Pray they would honor others.
Pray that God would teach our children to honor others rather than use them.
Our sexualized culture cheapens fellow image-bearers. People are reduced to objects to be used and coveted rather than fellow image-bearers to be served and honored. Recently, I was walking with a young man who’d been battling with pornography. When we passed an attractive woman, he had a physical reaction in which he spun his head the other way and began to walk sideways with his back toward her. While I appreciated his desire not to lust, that is not the kind of response we should have to fellow image-bearers.
When sex is removed from the sacred space of marriage, it has a degrading effect on people made in God’s image. Satan calls our children to fantasize about using others for sexual pleasure, but Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, not lust after them. Young men are called to treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). Young women are certainly called to treat young men as brothers, in all purity as well.
Desiring God is a gift that only he can give; plead for God to give it.
Pray for your children to see people as worthy of honor, respect, and protection. Pray they would heed God’s warnings for those who sin against one another sexually (Heb. 13:5). Pray also that they would dedicate their lives to helping others grow in holiness rather than defraud them through sexual selfishness (1 Thess. 4:1–8).
4. Pray they would cultivate sobriety.
Pray that God would help our children have spiritual sobriety about sin, grace, and eternity.
Youthfulness is often accompanied by a disastrous case of spiritual nearsightedness. Issues of eternity typically feel irrelevant. Grace can feel nebulous. Adults can more easily comprehend the way sin can devastate a marriage or a career. Our sons and daughters need God to cultivate spiritual sobriety.
Solomon warned his sons of the disaster that accompanies the way of the seductress saying “her house sinks down to death . . . none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life” (Prov. 3:18–19). Pray that God would help your teenager comprehend how sexual sin dishonors their name, brings personal pain, and steals years from their life (Prov. 5:9, 6:27–28).
As our sin becomes more pronounced to us, the grace of Jesus becomes more precious to us. Pray that God would guard our children from despair and give them hope in Jesus. Pray for them to see that where their sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). Pray that they would not be bashful before God, but bold in fleeing to his throne for grace (Heb. 4:14–16). Pray that God would give them eyes to realize that everything they think, say, and do has eternal implications (Ps. 119:18; Luke 8:10).
5. Pray they would confess quickly.
Pray that God would help them confess sins quickly and cling to Jesus desperately.
Unconfessed sin leads to shame. And shame is a powerful tool in Satan’s arsenal, especially against teenagers. Preying upon their insecurities, he tempts them to cover their compromises. He knows that unconfessed sin is like a cancer to the soul. It cripples the conscience and can send them spiraling into deeper darkness.
As parents, we desire to help them not sin, but we are also ready to help them if they do (1 John 2:1–2). We must teach our children how to confess their sins to God (1 John 1:8–9) and to other believers (James 5:16). Familiarize them with Scriptures that will help them flee to God for mercy (cf. Pss. 32, 38, 51, 103, 130; Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; James 4:6–10; 1 Pet. 2:24–25).
Pray they would not silence the Spirit’s conviction but respond with faith and repentance (Rom. 2:4; Heb. 3:15; 2 Pet. 3:9). Pray that your children feel the weight of their sin, but also that they know the way to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14–16). Pray they would believe that “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Pray they would believe that God desires to forgive them.
6. Pray they would have courage.
It is difficult to follow Jesus when everyone is not. The weight of peer pressure can be daunting to young people. This is why we must pray for them to have courage to follow Jesus (Josh. 1:9; Isa. 41:10; Ps. 31:24; 2 Tim. 1:7).
The apostle Peter reminded suffering Christians that they were to forsake the sin everyone else indulges in. He also helped them fight the mockery that was sure to come from their friends: “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:4–5).
Pray that our children will be strengthened to trust God, even when others laugh. Pray that the coming day of judgment will move them to resist sin so they can call their friends to find salvation in Jesus. Pray they would “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).
7. Pray for Yourselves
Finally, parents, pray for yourselves. Pray these very same realities would be abundantly present in your own life. Indeed, one way God desires to protect your children is by the model and example they see in you. Treasure Christ. Honor others. Pray for your teens.
J. Garrett Kell is the author of Pure in Heart: Sexual Sin and the Promises of God.
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